Confluence Gets a Jolt

Xcel pledges 250K for performing arts center

Tom Giffey

Left to right: Mark Stoering, Meghan Bauer, Tom Barland, Jill Barland, Mark Faanes, and Ben Fowke.
Left to right: Mark Stoering, Meghan Bauer, Tom Barland, Jill Barland, Mark Faanes, and Ben Fowke.

Xcel Energy is helping charge up the Confluence Project with a $250,000 grant toward the downtown performing arts center. Ben Fowke, CEO of the Minneapolis-based utility firm, made the announcement at a May 17 press conference. “You can really feel the energy and revitalization coming downtown,” said Fowke, who was also in Eau Claire for the firm’s annual shareholder meeting.

The quarter-million-dollar donation pushes the private fundraising total for the shared community-university arts center past $13 million, with less than $2 million to go to reach the $15 million goal. Overall, the project’s price tag will be $45 million, which will come from a variety of public and private sources.

Dan Clumpner, a principal with Commonweal Development, which is consulting on the development, said the project is still moving toward a groundbreaking in early fall. (The Confluence Center is expected to open in 2018.) “The $15 million is very important,” he said of the fundraising goal. “There are some things we’d like to add that would go a little above that,” he added, noting there will be some flexibility to the bidding process to adjust the project’s cost to its needs.

Xcel is just the latest local business to hand over a giant check: Other large-scale donors have included Royal Credit Union, JAMF Software, Charter Bank, Market & Johnson, OakLeaf Medical Network physicians, and many more.
Xcel has a long history in downtown Eau Claire. Its predecessor, Northern States Power Co., was headquartered downtown for most of the 20th century, first in a South Barstow Street building that was razed to make way for Haymarket Landing (the Confluence Project’s residential and commercial component) and later just down the street near the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers, which is now home to Phoenix Park.

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